At the turn of the 20th Century, the spark of the Magic City was one to behold. As Birmingham became an industrial metropolitan area, one particular corner of the city stood above the rest (pun intended): the intersection of 1st Ave. North and 20th Street. Between the years of 1902-1912 four large buildings were erected on that corner giving it the nickname “the heaviest corner on Earth”. While that may not be technically accurate, that corner is a testament to the significant impact it has made on Downtown Birmingham’s development. And guess what? The buildings’ still stand in all their glory today.
When built in 1909, it was the tallest building in Alabama towering 247 feet. The Empire was developed by Empire Improvement Company, and financed by Metropolitan Life Insurance Company – also making the building one of the first development deals of its kind by an insurer. Currently, the Empire houses Elyton Hotel (fun fact: before being called Birmingham, the city was named Elyton, after an early entrepreneur). Elyton Hotel uplifts the historic roots of the Empire building into a modern luxury experience.
John Hand Building
Three years after the Empire Building made its grand-entrance, the John Hand Building surpassed it in height at 284 feet tall. (It held the title of tallest building in Alabama for one year before it, too, was surpassed.) In its long history, the building has primarily occupied banking institutions, but it is now the headquarters of Landing, an end-to-end platform and nationwide network of furnished apartments from Shipt founder, Bill Smith. Landing’s recent move to the John Hand Building adds to the growing Tech ecosystem of the city.
The Woodward Building was the first of its kind in Birmingham – a light brown façade, built in 1902 with elaborate metal construction at 132 feet tall. No building had been built quite this large in Birmingham’s history, and the building was so large for that many doubted its viability as an office space in the market. However, at its completion the Woodward Building office spaces were fully leased. Currently, the building is expecting Total Skin and Beauty occupants in the Fall.
Brown Marx Building
Although this building never held a title as the tallest on the “heaviest corner”, it was easily the most popular of the bunch. Built in1906, early architects were intentional in making the building as aesthetically pleasing as possible with lightly colored brick, arched ground-floor glass showing windows, and a marble interior. Over time, the Brown Marx declined in occupancy and lost much of its original décor. But in 2018, the building was purchased by the Ascent Hospitality who were responsible for the elaborate renovations of Brown Marx’s next door neighbor, Elyton Hotel.
The Rainbow Viaduct, one of Birmingham’s oldest bridges, has been transporting people between the south and north sides of downtown for more than 130 years! Now as we look toward its future, you’ll see a pilot project on the bridge to make it more pedestrian and cyclist friendly while we determine the best next steps.
NiEl' Atelier Grand Opening Showcases Inspirational Journey of Ukrainian Family Achieving the American Dream
In less than a year after arriving in the United States, the Vyshyvanyuk family, who recently fled from Ukraine, is now launching NiEl’ Bridal Atelier, a custom wedding dress and alterations business in Forest Park. Olena and Mykola Vyshyvanyuk, along with their three children – Viktoriia Vyshyvanyuk, Eva Vyshyvanyuk, and Loanna Vyshyvanyuk – made the courageous decision to leave Ukraine on November 7, 2022. This family’s inspiring story serves as a testament to the boundless opportunities that small businesses can achieve in Birmingham.
Are you a startup looking for a foot in the door? Did you know we have an accelerator program that helps founders begin their entrepreneurial journey right here in the Switch district? TechStars is a dynamic three-month program that empowers entrepreneurs in their quest to discover product-market fit, gain traction, and access both capital and global mentorship. Operating in more than 30 cities worldwide, Techstars added Birmingham as a host for their energy-focused cohort.